Liz Reinsel says she’s the poster child for what not to do as a real estate agent.
She confesses to not having a formal business plan. She doesn’t follow a timeline for what to do and when, either.
And while she stays in touch with the people who make up her sphere of influence, she doesn’t contact them like clockwork.
“I don’t reach out to my SOI on the first Friday of every month,” Reinsel explains. “It would drive me crazy if someone did that to me, so I don’t do it to my clients.”
But the so-called rebel of real estate must be doing something right. Pinned to Reinsel’s shirt is a nametag that identifies her as one of Crye-Leike’s multi-million dollar producers. What’s more, she was the company’s top-selling agent in the Greater Chattanooga area in 2016.
Despite the lack of a carefully considered document charting her path to success, this was no happy accident; Reinsel set out to be number one last year.
“My goal in 2016 was to be the top-selling agent in the area. That meant I’d have to beat Jack Webb,” she adds, laughing.
Reinsel’s numbers in 2015 had been her best yet since coming to Crye-Leike in 2009: $11 million in sales and 49 transactions. As a single agent with no team, she had worked hard to reach those levels.
When Reinsel looked at her first numbers for 2016 in February of last year, she says she knew it was her time to be No. 1. But she also knew she’d have to work even harder than she had in 2015.
“I put my nose to the grindstone,” she adds. “I worked around the clock and didn’t take a vacation or go on the company trip. I’m grateful for what came my way, but I worked my butt off to make it happen.”
Reinsel finished last year with $17 million in sales across 68 transactions.
She says she doubts she did anything extraordinary other than pour all her time and energy into reaching her goal. Just like Reinsel was half-joking when she said she knew she’d have to outdistance Webb to be No.1, she’s only partially kidding when she says being single with no kids allowed her to focus on her work.
“I don’t know that I worked smarter in 2016 than I had before,” she points out. “I don’t have a personal life, so it was probably hard work and consistency.
The lack of a business plan doesn’t mean Reinsel is disorganized or unintentional. Rather, her work space at Crye-Leike’s Ooltewah office suggests the opposite is true.
Housed in the room formerly occupied by the Dixon Team, Reinsel has created what could be the neatest, most-organized office of any Realtor in Chattanooga.
Red folders are neatly slid into file sorters on her two desks, which are meticulously tidy. What’s more, there isn’t a loose pen, Post-It note or cup of coffee to be seen. Rather, everything has its place and is in its place.
Even the blinds in her windows along one wall are lowered to the exact same point.
That doesn’t mean Reinsel’s office is without charm. On the contrary, she’s fashioned a pleasing and tasteful visual palette. From splashes of green foliage to a pair of precisely hung mirrors (each with a playfully dotted frame), and from smartly placed desk lamps to photos of her family, Reinsel’s work environment is warm and inviting.
Two red-hatted trolls on one window sill even provide a bit of whimsy.
Reinsel also has infused her work space with a sense of geography. She’s placed a “Chattanooga strong” sign on a tall shelf and hung a Route 66 roadway sign across the room. The sign refers to the state highway that runs through the northwestern portion of Ohio, where Reinsel grew up and lived until moving to Chattanooga in 2009.
Perhaps the finest piece in Reinsel’s office is the large, weathered, red metallic sign that spells “Chattanooga” in script and occupies the space above the two mirrors. Reinsel says she purchased the item at The Refindery on McCallie Avenue – her occasional Saturday morning refuge.
The orderliness on display in Reinsel’s office is more than good housekeeping; it’s an expression of her personality.
“I’m organized to the point of being OCD,” she admits, half-laughing again. “You have to be in this business if you don’t have people working for you.”
The spotless nature of Reinsel’s office is also a byproduct of her desire to retain control of every aspect of her life and work – including each step of the home buying and selling process.
“Some Realtors are super busy, and when something goes under contract, they shove that file over to someone else. But that’s my favorite part,” Reinsel says. “I love doing methodical, detailed, neat paper work. It’s calming to me.
“It’s also a control issue. It would be easier for me to hand the file to someone else, but I would rather do it myself.”
Although Reinsel hasn’t developed a long-term strategy for her business, she’s very intentional when it comes to planning her day. She begins each morning at her office (on this day, she turned on the shiny chrome and black coffeemaker that sits on one of her desks at 7:15 a.m.) and doesn’t go home until she’s returned to her office and prepared for the following day.
“I’m super old school when it comes to starting and ending my day,” Reinsel adds.
Reinsel also displays a rare ability among Realtors to compartmentalize her personal and professional lives. When she leaves the office at the end of the day, she’s done working. This gives her the mental break she needs to maintain her sanity.
“I don’t work from home. Up until three months ago, I didn’t even have a home office,” she says. “I bought a Mac desktop earlier this year and it’s been on once. Home is where I breathe.”
Before Chattanooga, home was Wapakoneta, Ohio. Reinsel was working for her stepfather when she and her husband at the time purchased their first house. She was impressed with how educated and helpful their agent was.
“She could have taken advantage of us because we knew nothing, but she guided us through the process and everything she said proved to be true,” Reinsel remembers. “I was impressed and decided I wanted to do the same thing.”
Reinsel started her career at Ron Spencer Real Estate in 2005, where she attached herself to the most successful agents and watched what they did. Before long, she had developed a raving fan base.
One client called Reinsel “the best real estate person [he]’d ever worked with” while another recommended Reinsel to several of her friends. Those who went with another Realtor had not yet found a home when the lady gave her testimonial.
Jaylene Smith, the office manager at the Ron Spencer Real Estate office in Lima, Ohio, explains Reinsel’s integrity was a big factor in her success.
“Our office manager at the time trained Liz and another agent at the same time, and she thought the other agent was better suited for the job,” Smith says. “But the other agent didn’t last long in the business and Liz did very well.
“She developed a lot of business relationships and made many friends, but above all, she was honest and always smiling.”
“I try to do the right thing and treat people the way I want to be treated,” Reinsel says. “That includes following up with folks. If you do those few simple things, everything else falls into place.”
When Reinsel and her husband moved to Chattanooga for his work, she took a break from real estate to become familiar with the city. But shortly after arriving in Scenic City, she and her husband divorced, leaving her on her own.
“I went from knowing everyone in Ohio to knowing no one here,” she points out.
Before jumping back into work, Reinsel took a staff position with Crye-Leike New Homes on Ooltewah Georgetown Road. Soon after, she earned her Tennessee real estate license and went to work.
It wasn’t easy.
“The market wasn’t doing well. To make matters worse, I was in a new city, was newly divorced and was trying to start a new business without knowing anyone,” Reinsel recalls. “There were a few times when I thought I was going to have to get a regular job, but I wanted to make it happen.”
Reinsel’s divorce had made her more independent and goal-driven, so she did what she had to do to make her refurbished career work – including putting clients in her car and getting lost.
“Most of those people were relocating here, so they didn’t know I was lost,” she says, a self-deprecating smile crossing her face.
It took time, but eventually, Reinsel developed a new raving fan base. Today, she’s getting repeat business and benefiting from referrals and word of mouth.
“Liz’s clients love her. They talk her up,” says Dan Griess, Reinsel’s managing broker. “That’s how she’s built her business.”
Griess says Reinsel’s professionalism and attention to detail make his job easy. “Everyone should aspire to Liz’s work ethic and level of integrity,” he says. “If every Realtor ran his business like Liz, then the world of real estate would be a better place.”
Reinsel has set a different kind of goal for 2017 – take things easier at work. If her numbers for 2017 are an indication, she has yet to begin slowing down, as she’s right where she was last year at this time.
She looks no worse for the wear, though. “Real estate doesn’t feel like work to me. I enjoy it. Some days are tough because of the obstacles I face, but I get up the next morning with a fresh perspective and it’s usually a better day.”
Reinsel also intends to take a vacation this year. She hasn’t had one since 2014, when she treated her mother to a trip to Hawaii. “I have four quotes from travel agents,” she says. “I just need to decide where I want to go.”
Wherever Reinsel goes, she’ll be treating her mom and sister to the same experience this time. She considers it part of her reward for a job well done.
“You can make this job whatever you want it to be,” she explains. “If you want to work day and night to succeed, you can. If you want to take time for yourself, you can do that, too.”
One thing Reinsel has no intention of doing this year is beating Webb. His name is already above hers on the list of top-selling agents in the office for 2017, which is taped to the door to her office. Her name is yellow-highlighted in the number two spot.
“He’s going to blow me out of the water,” she admits. “He’s so far ahead of me, I don’t stand a chance.”
Reinsel laughs again as she says this. For her, being number one in 2016 wasn’t about beating anyone but about doing better than she’d ever done before. When she achieved that goal, her objectives changed again: Instead of selling more real estate, she wants to strike a better balance between work and home.
“Money doesn’t drive me,” she says. “If it did, I’d be working even harder this year.”
Spending even a little more time out of the office will free her up to do the things she loves, including cooking, hiking, entertaining in her Ooltewah home and spending more time with her mother and stepfather, who moved to the Chattanooga area in 2014.
“I’m one of five children and the only one who’s not married and doesn’t have kids, yet they chose to move here,” Reinsel says, smiling again. “I might be their favorite.”
Clearly, Reinsel is not the poster child for what not to do as a real estate agent. If she’s the poster child for anything, it’s the kind of life and career a person can have when his or her talents, foresight and commitment are employed in service of an aspiration.
“When I came to Crye-Leike, I wanted to be one of the successful agents in Chattanooga. I never considered giving up; that wasn’t an option,” she adds. “Now I have different goals, and I won’t give up on them, either.”